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An Interview With A Jewish Spy From Canada    

“I always wondered if the people I was talking to knew”

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Andrew Kirsch is the author of I Was Never Here: My True Canadian Spy Story of Coffees, Code Names, and Covert Operations in the Age of Terrorism. (Image: Supplied)

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Andrew Kirsch didn’t watch spy movies growing up as a Jewish kid in Toronto. But in I Was Never Here, Kirsch (now an in-demand security consultant) spills the secrets of what life as an intelligence officer is really like, and dispels a few myths along the way. His memoir was released March 1st (Amazon: I Was Never Here) and was a Toronto Star and Globe and Mail bestseller.

With humour, honesty, and candour, Kirsch shares his on-the-ground experience (or as much of it as he’s allowed to) of becoming a member of CSIS: from his vetting and training, to his initial desk job as a policy analyst, to his rise up the ranks to leading covert special operations missions. He was interviewed this fall by TheJ.ca:

Q: I just heard about you and unfortunately haven’t read your book yet. However, in the Amazon review, it states that a terrorist attack near your office led you to join CSIS. What happened that day?

I was working as a junior investment advisor at a bank in downtown London, UK when the terrorist attacks happened on July 7th, 2005. I was in University in Providence Rhode Island on 9/11 a few years before. That event was a couple of states over, now it was right outside the door. It just felt very real and close and I wanted to get involved somehow.

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Q: Without giving sensitive information away, what were your most dangerous missions as a spy?

I was part of our covert special operations teams planting technical surveillance devices in people’s homes, cars, offices and another place where we knew they would be. We often worked late at night and obviously did our best to avoid being detected. I never worried about being hurt, but I always worried about being caught and having one of my clandestine operations end up on the cover of the newspaper thus compromising a national security investigation.

Q: For how long did you work at CSIS?

I spent a little under a decade with CSIS, including my training.

Q: Did you have to hide your job from close family and friends?

Yes. I lied to most people about where I worked. And practiced discretion so even the people closest to me who knew where I worked didn’t know what I did there. For example when I worked late at night I couldn’t and didn’t tell my wife where I was going, what I was doing, who I was going to be with and when exactly I’d be home. Did I mention I had a very understanding wife!

Q: You mentioned security tips in your introductory email to us. Can you share a couple of general ways for people to stay safe?

My job involved getting access to information. In the old days that meant talking to people and asking them about their friends, family, work colleagues etc. Cultivating human sources of information. These days, so much of our lives are lived online that it is becoming an increasing place to collect information about people, to target them and use them to get access to people they are connected to. My advice is to practice good online safety (good passwords, 2 factor authentication, robust security settings on social media accounts etc). But also be cautious about what information you put online (your personal information as well as your contacts and professional network) , be careful about who you connect with and be vigilant about the links you click.

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Q: Is terrorism a threat to Canada today?

Yes, and it’s important to note that sometimes we think about the word terrorism in narrow terms – Canada is facing very real threat of ideologically and / or religiously motivated attacks which  includes threats like Right wing extremism, Antisemitism, Eco-terrorism, Islamic extremism, incels and other threat actors.

Q: With cases of antisemitism apparently rising in Canada, can you offer any suggestions specifically for Jews to protect themselves?

I think our Jewish places of worship and community centres are taking appropriate steps to enhance their security to protect themselves; congregants and visitors. I know we want our institutions to be welcoming and accommodating but unfortunately, we are all going to need to be considerate to those responsible for our security implementing things like bag checks and controlling access to sites.

As I mentioned before, be careful online about what you share. Make sure your email address, phone number, home address and other personally identifiable information is not publicly available. Many members of our community are proud Jews and passionate defenders of Israel which may make them a target for online harassment and potentially physical confrontation if people are able to get their address or home phone number.

Q: Did being Jewish affect what assignments CSIS gave you or how you were regarded?

It didn’t but I was always very conscious of it. Although I was never accused of being Jewish, I always wondered if the people I was talking to knew. There were definitely occasions where people didn’t know and would say Antisemetic or anti-Israel comments to me in the course of a regular conversation. In those moments I would just sit non-pulsed and try to change the subject.

Mark Shiffer is a freelance writer for a number of publications and to The Blogs of Times of Israel. One of his main interests is history and especially Jewish history.

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We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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